Imagine being contacted by the office of a well-known producer who’s working on a big new project and wants to hire you. It pays well. It’ll land you a ton of connections. You just need to do a quick trial run on a smaller project. Overseas. But don’t worry, they’ll reimburse you for everything. And after that, you’ll land your dream job. So you buy a ticket to Jakarta...
The Indonesia Show Business Scam
That exact scenario has played out numerous times over the past several years. Writers, stunt performers, photographers, and other industry workers are lured by the promise of a huge project, with a test run in Indonesia.
Once the job-seeker arrives in Jakarta, they’re met by a driver who convinces them to pay for some necessary expenses, pre-booking hotel rooms, deposits on equipment and locations. The victim continues to pay more and more money - until it’s clear: This is a scam. The driver and everyone else involved disappear. The victim is never reimbursed for anything and, worse, that big job evaporates.
It seemed so legit
The scam has worked so well that the FBI is currently trying to find the criminals behind it by reaching out to the victims. These are not wide-eyed dupes - each step of the scam appears extremely legitimate.
It starts with an email. They'll say you were referred to them by someone you’ve worked with. They'll use details (they stole from social media) to make it seem like they are who they claim to be and that they know your work.
Emails will progress to calls and texts. They’ll provide documents about the jobs. They’ll send NDAs for you to sign. They’ll give you itineraries and production schedules. They’ll develop a sense of trust - and when you schedule your trip to Jakarta, you’ll be convinced reimbursement is on its way. When it doesn’t arrive, they’ll have a very good reason why.
If you’re like any of the previous victims, you’ll believe them - until you get to Jakarta and realize the truth.
The FBI is warning entertainment industry workers about this particular scam so people will recognize it. But once one scam works, similar scams tend to pop up, backed by other scammers. Now, hearing "Jakarta" might send up a red flag, but the next scam might pop up in Kuala Lumpur.
The best way to verify a job’s legitimacy is through research. Find a different avenue of contacting the person who is hiring you. Instead of just relying on the email and phone number they give you, try to find contact information independently, on the web, through LinkedIn, Twitter. Find the number of their office on the web and then contact them through that number. Talk to the person they said referred them to you and thank them for the referral. If they have no idea what you're talking about, it might be time to get suspicious.